There’s been a lot of talk lately about the “future of publishing.” After all, books have never had as much cash to spare as the recording industry, and look at the mess they’re in. Already it is not so difficult for a self-published manuscript to sell itself on Amazon.com. What will happen when everything goes digital? The suggestion is that there will be an opening of the gates, and the latest best-seller will stand on the same virtual shelf with thirty self-published manuscripts. The optimists claim that this is where the great unpublished books will be discovered and pessimists point to the unleashed masses of poorly thought-out, half-written tomes filled with spelling errors. But it doesn’t matter if fantastic self-published books are available if they’re drowned out by countless other books vying for the consumer’s attention. I’m thinking of this issue again because Chuck Wendig just wrote a post on this very subject. I must requote a quote that he included in his piece from a Salon.com article (“When Anyone Can Be A Published Author”)
Furthermore, as observers like Chris Anderson (in “The Long Tail”) and social scientists like Sheena Iyengar (in her new book “The Art of Choosing”) have pointed out, when confronted with an overwhelming array of choices, most people do not graze more widely. Instead, if they aren’t utterly paralyzed by the prospect, their decisions become even more conservative, zeroing in on what everyone else is buying and grabbing for recognizable brands because making a fully informed decision is just too difficult and time-consuming. As a result, introducing massive amounts of consumer choice leads to situations in which the 10 most popular items command the vast majority of the market share, while thousands of lesser alternatives must divide the leftovers into many tiny portions.
Chuck says in response, ” that doesn’t sound like what will happen when the FUTURE OF PUBLISHING is made manifest. It sounds like what happens right bloody now.” As it is, there are about 100,000 brand new titles published and printed every year, and it is fair to say that even the most devoted readers may touch 1/100th of that. That doesn’t take into account the thousands of reprints of absolute classics that exist. I am pretty sure that if I devoted my entire life to reading I would not get through every book on my imaginary wish list before I breathe my last breath. Now imagine compounding this with an onslaught of unpublished manuscripts, from gorgeous to garbage, that would land on the market place if the result of this revolution were a totally leveled playing field. What would happen?
“You, Floyd—-you did it. You _out_did it, Floyd. _Ron nee Dee_ If I had a sister? If i had a sister, and she was talking to some guy in our backyard? And if my sister, she said to me, ‘Benji, this is Ron Desormie’? I would kick him in the lower back, and when he fell, I’d drop a knee in his face and drag him out into the street unconscious so a car would run him over, and then he’d be dead and that would be that, but if I had a sister and I came into our backyard, and my sister said, ‘Benji, this is RONNY D’? I would slap him on the neck and slap him across the chops and slap him on the neck again, then across the chops again, and I think it would be the end of me, Floyd. I think that _I_ would die. I’d be like those lab rats from the filmstrip where they hook them to cocaine drips and the rats can step on the lever so the cocaine spikes into them and they always kill themselves fast because they can’t stop stepping on the lever. If I were a rat in a lab, the slapping of Ronnie D would be my cocaine, Floyd. I mean, I could really slap the Jesus outta some Ronny D. Even dead—-I’d just keep slapping him; even after he was dead, Floyd. I’d slam him to death, and then a few days later, in the middle of slapping his corpse, it would be me who was dead. I’d lose all interest in hydration and nutrients and I’d just die slapping him. You really nailed it Floyd. You call it like it is. You tell the truth. His parents might have named him Ron Desormie, but you came to know him, and you saw that he was really _Ronny D_. I mean, you’re a robot just like Botha, FLoyd, you’re a real machine, a total gizmo, but at the same time, you’re also the opposite of Botha, because you tell the truth. You should be a writer. Good job.”
—Benji Nakamook sharing what he thinks of the nickname Floyd gave to the basketball coach in Adam Levin’s The Instructions.
It’s hard to give examples of why I love The Instructions. Partly why it clocks over a thousand pages are the little journeys like the one above. I love the elipses-filled diatribe that the protagonist gives to his social worker about why he doesn’t identify with the label African-American but that’s a three-page rant that the author himself summarized by giving only one side of the conversation. It’s something Tumblr doesn’t really encourage. You have to immerse yourself in it in a way that is best suited to the long form reading experience. (Which will not stopping me from looking for more excerpts to share with you.)
or “I Like Beating the Crap Out of People Better Than Shopping For a Duvet”
Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club
(Alternate title by Jennifer Fox.)